Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, August 6th, 2020

The Role of Afghan Political Culture in New Democracy of the Country


The Role of Afghan Political Culture in New  Democracy of the Country

In most eastern societies, democracy or democratic political system is considered as foreign (Western) phenomenon because these countries, especially the Islamic world, have been ruled by religious or despotic power. Most of today’s Islamic world formed as result of action and reaction of the colonialist powers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Britain, Tsarist Russia and France are among the most important European powers that were directly involved in demarcating national borders and forming many countries in the Muslim world. The interference of these European powers in the Muslim world was in two different manners. In some of third world countries, many eastern political systems such as Indian subcontinent received direct orders from metropolitan cities (London, Paris, or St. Petersburg).
The second type of intervention in the third world was indirect means the native rulers acted as puppets of European powers. Afghanistan was of the second type where most of the Afghan rulers were influenced by British policies. The national borders of Afghanistan were demarcated by Great Britain and Russia at the end of the 19th century but ethno-cultural diversity of current geography was not observed. Today, one of the main reasons for complexity of political management can be searched in ethnic-cultural diversity. In fact, these conditions are one of the main legacies of European powers in post-independence political system of the third world countries. After independence, many of these countries moved toward democracy but often failed and changed into new dictatorships.
In some of these countries, the rulers gained political power through military force while others came to power in democratic way, but they sustained power lifelong and even made it a household legacy. Afghanistan was one of the countries that neither directly colonized nor witnessed democracy after independence and there was an absolute dictatorship in the country until it experienced limited democracy from 1964 to 1973. Thereafter, the democracy was broken by military-backed coup of Mohammed Dawood and led to several decades of disorder in the country. During the presidency of Dawood Khan, also during the fourteen-year of communist system and within a decade of Islamist and Taliban internal conflicts, there was no sign of democracy in Afghanistan until a new political order established in 2001. Since then, there is a modern structure of democratic system, but in practice there are major challenges in the new order. The question that arises is what role can Afghan political culture play on democracy in the country?
In democratic countries, an election is one of the most important political mechanism through which people exercise sovereignty. Based on this, Afghanistan has repeatedly gone to ballot box but achieved no desirable outcome being acceptable to all parts and people. The political culture of Afghanistan has been one of the key factors in the political activism of Afghan people. Political culture can play positive or negative role on democracy aiming to be explained in three following parts:
Firstly, one of the most important prerequisite for institutionalization of democracy is political rationality. This means that people should reach at a level of understanding to be able to realize their individual and collective interests without mediation. As long as there is no political rationality in the country, political elites can easily deceive the people and circumvent the legal mechanisms. As long as there is no political maturity, establishment of democratic order seems just a dream because all people expect implementing rule of the political game but unconsciously they behave in a way that violates the rules of the game. For instance, the monetary behavior of citizens with their vote when selling it versus a little money is a vivid example of political immaturity.
Secondly, we should accept that there are always chances of winning or losing in all games, including political game and election. In presidential systems, one side usually wins but other loses. This is also true in most parliamentary systems apart from exceptional cases that led to coalition government. In Afghanistan’s political culture, acceptance of win-lose culture has not been properly institutionalized.  The electoral teams always expect to win even if their defeat is inevitable. When this contentious issue lies in the context of the political culture of a society, one can hardly speak about institutionalization of democracy. Based on such self-righteousness, many Afghan people take part in election fraud to prevent from self-defeat and victory of the rivals.
Thirdly, conspiracy theory in Afghan Political Behavior is another issue which challenges democracy though it also exists in many neighboring countries and even the first world countries. Historically, this theory pertains to ambiguous behavior old colonialist, Great Britain, in nineteenth and first half of twentieth century. In Afghanistan, majority of citizens have such a mentality about the ruler of the country as if one always reaches to highest position of the country with the support of foreigners.  
Conspiracy theory can play a very destructive role in institutionalization of democracy because the masses of people lose their confidence and value of their voting power. Consequently, they disbelieve in peaceful political mechanism, and then seek alternative ways such as election fraudulent, violence, lack of participation and so on. Unfortunately, this theory is strongly embedded in the culture of Afghan people and event interprets the behaviors of citizens in most cases. For example, when people demonstrate for their social rights, other citizens label them as mercenaries of foreign countries, or when a terrorist incident occurs in some part of country, others citizens are accused for supporting terrorism and insurgency in the country.
Therefore, political culture plays a very important role in institutionalization or destruction of democracy in the country. As long as such culture is ruling in Afghan society, the capacity for fraud, violations of law and belief in conspiracy theory will not be eliminated. To institutionalize democracy in the country, the political maturity of the citizens is one of the most essential undeniable elements.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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